‘Covid vaccine passport app’ to be trialled on Singapore Airlines London flights

Vaccine passports have landed in the UK as the International Air Transport Association trials an app with an airline between Singapore and London.

The phone software from IATA stores evidence of a negative Covid test as well as the facility to store evidence travellers have had coronavirus vaccinations.

It is being trialled over the next few weeks with Singapore Airlines on a route between Singapore and London. 

The news comes as the UK Government mulls over vaccine passports to get the travel industry moving again. 

Nick Careen, IATA’s senior vice president for airport passenger cargo and security, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that ‘quite a few’ governments have shown an interest in the app.

Asked whether UK passengers would be able to use paper records as proof of vaccination or would need to upload digital evidence, Mr Careen said: ‘The chances are it will be a combination of the two.

The new app could help reopen the air travel industry after the ravages of coronavirus

A tourist holding his app-loaded phone

How the IATA app looks

The IATA app will hold flight tickets as well as negative test proof and vaccine evidence

‘Speaking specifically for the UK, there have been discussions and there have been some announcements in terms of digitising, and there is a digital record through the NHS of your vaccination regardless of how it is being logged, so the ability to be able to communicate that would not be overly burdensome.

‘But, ultimately, yes, we would expect to have to have the ability to be able to upload existing documents but also those that are digital as well.’

In terms of data protection, Mr Careen said the information on the app would not be kept on a central database and that the test and vaccine records would only ‘exist on your phone’.

It would be used if countries required evidence of a test or vaccine to enter them. 

The news comes after UK’s health secretary Matt Hancock yesterday confirmed discussions about vaccine passports with other countries and the EU.

‘We are absolutely working with our international partners on the need for certification in terms of having had a vaccine to be able to travel to another country,’ he said, adding that the ‘EU is part of those discussions’.  

Britons who book holidays to Greece and arrive with 'vaccine passports' could be allowed to skip queues of people who have 'only' taken Covid tests (file image)

Britons who book holidays to Greece and arrive with ‘vaccine passports’ could be allowed to skip queues of people who have ‘only’ taken Covid tests (file image)

British and Greek teams are at an ‘advanced stage’ of talks over the system, Greek officials told The Sun.

Greece has been pushing European leaders to adopt vaccine passports, allowing those with jabs to travel internationally, since at least the start of the year.

In mid-January, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis urged EU members to ‘urgently’ consider such a system and how it would be implemented.

Mr Mitsotakis insisted that vaccines would not be mandatory for travel, but that those with vaccination certificates should be allowed to come and go freely.

Those who have not been vaccinated would require extra checks – such as testing – before being allowed to travel.

Deputy Prime Minister Akis Skertsos expanded on the idea last week, saying that the process for non-vaccinated tourists would be ‘slower’.

They would likely have to be tested either before departure or on arrival and may have to self-isolate for a period of time, he suggested to the BBC.

Haris Theoharis later added that all British tourists, whether vaccinated or not, would be welcome to come to Greece once international travel resumes.

But those without vaccines would face a combination of PCR and rapid antigen testing in order to enter, he said.

Haris Theoharis, Greek tourism minister, says the scheme could be up and running by May - the first date when Britons could be allowed to travel as the government eases restrictions

Haris Theoharis, Greek tourism minister, says the scheme could be up and running by May – the first date when Britons could be allowed to travel as the government eases restrictions

‘We’ll try to dovetail with the plan that has been announced in the UK,’ Theoharis added in an interview with the Guardian

‘A date of 17 May has been set and we certainly want to be ready by then. The roadmap was a very, very good move by the UK government … planning is a pre-requisite for the travel industry.’ 

Non-essential travel is currently barred across much of the EU, with no sign that rules will be lifted soon amid a slow vaccine roll-out.

But Greece, whose economy is heavily reliant on tourism, has been in talks with countries that have much faster vaccination programmes in the hopes of salvaging its summer season – after 2020 was largely written off.

Greek ministers have already agreed that vaccinated Israeli citizens will be allowed to travel freely to the country once international travel resumes.

Israel is running the world’s fastest vaccination programme with 55 per cent of its population given at least one dose – compared to five per cent in the EU. 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has outlined a roadmap out of lockdown for Britain as the country’s vaccine programme gathers pace – with around 30 per cent of the population given at least one dose.

While Mr Johnson’s plan did not include a firm date for international travel to restart, he suggested that it could happen on May 17 as some other measures – including socialising indoors and indoor events such as theatre – are relaxed.

The UK is now reporting around 6,000 coronavirus cases per day, its lowest infection rate since September and down around 50 per cent on a week-by-week basis.

Deaths have also dropped rapidly, down around 40 per cent week-on-week and at also their lowest level since September last year. 

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